How Long Do People Keep Their Cars?

By Julie Blackley

Study analyzes average length of car ownership to help determine how long to keep a car

Have you ever wondered how long to keep a car? While the average new car is kept for 8.4 years, there are owners who get rid of their cars sooner to keep up with the latest technology and safety features, and others who prefer to keep their vehicles for the long haul. Regardless of what category a consumer falls into, choosing a car that owners tend to hold onto can help ensure that they will have a reliable vehicle that will suit their needs for as long they choose to keep it.

The new cars with the longest average age of ownership are mostly sports cars or SUVs, according to a new study by car search engine iSeeCars.com. Sports cars account for five of the top 10 new cars that owners keep the longest, followed by SUVs, which have four models on the list.

The automotive research firm, iSeeCars.com, analyzed more than 5 million vehicles sold by their original owners to identify which cars are kept the longest. The average length of car ownership for the top 10 models ranges from 9.7 to 11.4 years – or 14.9 percent to 35 percent longer than the overall average of 8.4 years.  

"While the average new car buyer holds onto their car for 8.4 years, there is a wide variety of cars that owners are more likely to keep longer,” said iSeeCars CEO Phong Ly. “Sports cars typically aren’t daily drivers and don’t accrue high mileage as a result, so it takes them longer to show signs of wear and tear.”

How Long Do People Keep Cars?

iSeeCars analyzed the average length of car ownership to determine how long people keep their cars. The analysis found that the car owners keep the longest is the Toyota Land Cruiser, which is kept for 11.4 years on average. The average car age for how long all vehicles are kept is 8.4 years.

Here are the top 10 cars that owners keep the longest when purchased new:

  1. Toyota Land Cruiser, 11.4 years 
  2. Chevrolet Corvette, 10.5 years
  3. Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, 10.3 years
  4. Audi TT, 10.2 years
  5. Ford Expedition, 10.1 years
  6. Ford Mustang, 10 years
  7. Toyota 4Runner, 10 years
  8. Porsche 911, 9.9 years
  9. Toyota Sequoia, 9.9 years
  10. Toyota Avalon, 9.7 years
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Earning the distinction as the new car that owners keep the longest is the Toyota Land Cruiser, which is kept for an average of 11.4 years before being sold. “The current generation of the iconic Toyota Land Cruiser dates back to 2008, and has only had a mild refresh in 2016,” said Ly. “Along with being a reliable and capable off-road SUV that lasts a long time, owners may opt to keep their older models because they don’t look dated.” 

Two additional truck-based Toyota SUVs make the list including the seventh-ranked 4Runner and the ninth-ranked Sequoia. “Toyotas are known for their reliability and longevity, so owners may choose to keep them on the road because they are still running well and don’t require expensive repairs,” said Ly. “These vehicles also tend to be family vehicles with standard or optional third-row seating, so parents are likely to keep them until they no longer require a large vehicle.” The lone American SUV, the full-size Ford Expedition, makes the list in fifth place and is also a popular family hauler. 

Sports cars are the most represented vehicle segment on the list with five models. They include the second-ranked Corvette, the third-ranked Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, the fourth-ranked Audi TT, the sixth-ranked Ford Mustang, and the eighth-ranked Porsche 911. “Because sports cars aren’t typically used as primary vehicles, owners likely aren’t as concerned with having the latest and greatest technology and safety features,” said Ly. “With the exception of the Porsche 911, which is the coupe bodystyle, the sports cars on the list are the convertible versions. Convertibles are the least-driven vehicle segment and accrue 60% less mileage than the average vehicle.”  

Standing out as the only sedan on the list is the tenth-ranked Toyota Avalon. “The Toyota Avalon is a spacious sedan that offers ample cargo room that is consistently at the top of its class for vehicle rankings, “ said Ly. “It’s a reliable alternative for those who want a comfortable vehicle but don’t require the cargo space of an SUV or a minivan.”

Average Length of Car Ownership: America’s Most Popular Vehicles  

iSeeCars examined how long owners hold onto the nation’s most popular cars after purchasing them new. The average length of ownership for these new cars before getting resold ranges from 6.8 to 9.6 years and none of the popular cars rank on the overall top 10 list.  Here is how long owners keep the most popular cars:
iSeeCars Length of Ownership for Popular Cars
Rank Model # Years of Ownership (Avg.)
1 Ford Explorer 9.6
2 Toyota Camry 9.5
3 Honda Accord 9.4
4 Toyota Highlander 9.1
5 Honda Civic 9.1
6 Jeep Grand Cherokee 9.0
7 Toyota Corolla 9.0
8 Toyota Tacoma 9.0
9 Jeep Wrangler 8.9
10 Ram Pickup 1500 8.7
11 Honda CR-V 8.6
12 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 8.6
13 Nissan Altima 8.6
14 Toyota RAV4 8.6
15 GMC Sierra 1500 8.5
16 Subaru Forester 8.5
17 Ford F-150 8.5
Average for All Cars 8.4
18 Nissan Sentra 8.4
19 Subaru Outback 8.1
20 Ford Escape 8.0
21 Hyundai Elantra 7.9
22 Ford Fusion 7.1
23 Chevrolet Equinox 7.1
24 Nissan Rogue 6.8
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“When looking at the set of popular cars that owners keep longer than average, Toyota has the most models represented with five,” said Ly. “The enduring popularity of these vehicles and the amount of time owners hold onto them helps solidify Toyota’s reputation for making enduring and reliable vehicles.” 

One vehicle that stands out on the list is the bottom-ranked Nissan Rogue, which owners keep for 6.8 years after purchasing the vehicle new. “The compact Rogue has consistently earned good marks for safety and reliability, and its short length of ownership could be because owners opt to trade them in for larger SUVs to accommodate a growing family,” said Ly.

How Long Do People Keep SUVs? 

On average, new SUVs are kept for 8.3 years. When examining the SUV segment to see which are kept the longest, full-size models edge out midsize models by a margin of six to four. The Toyota Land Cruiser is the longest-kept SUV. Here are the new SUVs that are kept the longest.
iSeeCars Top 10 SUVs Owners Keep the Longest
Rank Model # Years of Ownership (Avg.)
1 Toyota Land Cruiser  11.4
2 Ford Expedition  10.1
3 Toyota 4Runner  10.0
4 Toyota Sequoia  9.9
5 Ford Explorer  9.6
6 Dodge Durango  9.6
7 Chevrolet Suburban  9.3
8 Nissan Pathfinder  9.3
9 Lincoln Navigator  9.1
10 Chevrolet Tahoe  9.1
SUV Average 8.3
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Joining the three full-size SUVs from the overall list are three American models: the seventh-ranked Chevrolet Suburban, the ninth-ranked Lincoln Navigator, and the tenth-ranked Chevrolet Tahoe. “The Chevrolet Suburban and the Chevrolet Tahoe are similar cars, with the main difference being the extended length of the Suburban,” said Ly. “The Lincoln Navigator is the luxury version of the second-ranked Ford Expedition. These full-size SUVs are popular family haulers and are expensive to replace, so owners have the added incentive of keeping them on the road for a longer period of time.” 

Along with the Toyota 4Runner, three additional midsize SUVs are the longest-kept new vehicles in the segment including the fifth-ranked Ford Explorer, the sixth-ranked Dodge Durango, and the eighth-ranked Nissan Pathfinder. “These vehicles each have available third rows and ample cargo room, which make them attractive options for family vehicles that are more practical than their full-size counterparts,” said Ly. 

Average Length of Car Ownership: Passenger Cars

iSeeCars further analyzed the list to determine the passenger cars (which include sedans, hatchbacks, and wagons) that owners hold onto for the longest time after purchasing them new. The longest-kept passenger car is the Toyota Avalon, which has an average length of car ownership of 9.7 years.
iSeeCars New Passenger Cars Owners Keep the Longest
Rank Model # Years of Ownership (Avg.)
1 Toyota Avalon 9.7
2 BMW 3 Series 9.5
3 Toyota Camry 9.5
4 Honda Accord 9.4
5 Ford Taurus 9.4
6 Mercedes Benz E-Class 9.3
7 Nissan Maxima 9.2
8 Honda Civic 9.1
9 Toyota Corolla 9.0
10 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 8.9
Passenger Car Average 8.4
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Two additional Toyotas make the list to join the top-ranked Avalon including the third-ranked Camry and the ninth-ranked Corolla.  “The Toyota Camry and the Toyota Corolla are popular sedans with a reputation for dependability,” said Ly. “These vehicles are also commonly passed down from parents to children, which can extend their length of ownership.” 

Three luxury vehicles make the list including the second-ranked BMW 3 Series, the sixth-ranked Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the tenth-ranked Mercedes-Benz S-Class. “The compact BMW 3 Series is often a car buyer’s entry into luxury car ownership, so buyers might splurge on purchasing and keep it running as long as possible,” said Ly. “Meanwhile, the midsize Mercedes-Benz E-Class and full-size S-Class super luxury cars are more expensive and opulent so buyers might choose to hold onto them because of their performance and reliability.”

Four more non-luxury sedans round out the list including the fourth-ranked Honda Accord, the fifth-ranked Ford Taurus, the seventh-ranked Nissan Maxima, and the eighth-ranked Honda Civic. “These sedans earn praise for their reliability and affordability, which make them good options for those who want a practical long-lasting vehicle,” said Ly.

How Long Do People Keep Trucks? 

iSeeCars looked at the pickup truck segment to determine how long people keep their trucks, and which are kept the longest. The longest-kept pickup truck is the Nissan Frontier, which is kept for an average of 9.1 years. As a vehicle segment, pickup trucks are kept longer than the overall average – 8.7 years versus 8.4 years. There is little variance across the segment, which ranges from 8.5 years to 9.1 years of ownership.
iSeeCars New Light-Duty Pickup Trucks Owners Keep the Longest
Rank Model # Years of Ownership (Avg.)
1 Nissan Frontier 9.1
2 Toyota Tacoma 9
3 Nissan Titan 8.9
4 Toyota Tundra 8.8
5 Ram Pickup 1500 8.7
Pickup Truck Average 8.7
6 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 8.6
7 GMC Sierra 1500 8.5
8 Ford F-150 8.5
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"Known for their durability, pickup trucks are often used as work vehicles,” said Ly. “Pickup truck drivers are likely to place more value on function and reliability rather than keeping up with modern design and technology trends, so owners are more likely to hold onto them.”

The light-duty pickup truck that owners keep the longest is the Nissan Frontier, which is kept on average for 9.1 years. “The Nissan Frontier is billed as ‘America’s most affordable pickup truck,’ which means that it could attract practical buyers who want to keep it on the road for as long as possible,” said Ly. 

 

Longest-Kept Car Brands 

iSeeCars also examined the data to determine the longest-kept new cars on the brand level. The three longest-kept car brands are Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz.
iSeeCars Longest-Kept New Cars by Make
Rank Make Manufacturer # Years of Ownership (Avg.)
1 Toyota Toyota Motor Corporation 9.0
2 Honda Honda Motor Co. 8.9
3 Mercedes-Benz Daimler AG 8.7
4 Ram Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 8.7
5 Acura Honda Motor Co. 8.6
6 Nissan Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance 8.4
7 Porsche Volkswagen Group 8.4
8 Chrysler Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 8.4
9 Ford Ford Motor Co. 8.3
10 Mazda Mazda Motor Corp. 8.3
11 Jeep Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 8.3
12 Volvo Zhejiang Geely Holding Group 8.2
13 BMW BMW Group 8.2
14 Subaru Subaru Corp. 8.2
15 Chevrolet General Motors 8.1
16 Cadillac General Motors 8.1
17 Hyundai Hyundai Motor Group 8.0
18 Volkswagen Volkswagen Group 8.0
19 Dodge Fiat Chrysler Automobiles 7.9
20 GMC General Motors 7.9
 

"It's no surprise that Toyota and Honda account for the top two spots on the list as Hondas and Toyotas are known for their reliability," said Ly.

Longest-Kept Cars By City 

iSeeCars further analyzed the data to determine the longest-kept new cars in the country's 20 largest metropolitan areas. 
Longest-Kept New Cars by Metro Area
Metro Area Make/Model Average # Years Kept
Atlanta, GA Toyota Land Cruiser 12.3
Boston, MA-Manchester, NH Mercedes-Benz SL-Class 10.8
Chicago, IL Toyota Land Cruiser 12.5
Cleveland-Akron (Canton), OH Chevrolet Corvette 11.4
Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX Mercedes-Benz SL-Class 10.8
Denver, CO Toyota Land Cruiser 11.3
Detroit, MI Toyota Land Cruiser 11.6
Houston, TX Toyota Land Cruiser 11.8
Los Angeles, CA Toyota Land Cruiser 12.7
Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL Toyota Land Cruiser 10.3
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN Toyota Land Cruiser 11.1
New York, NY Toyota Land Cruiser 10.9
Orlando-Daytona Beach, FL Toyota Land Cruiser 11.8
Philadelphia, PA Toyota Land Cruiser 12.3
Phoenix, AZ Toyota Land Cruiser 11.4
Sacramento-Stockton-Modesto, CA Toyota Land Cruiser 11.5
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA Toyota Land Cruiser 12.0
Seattle-Tacoma, WA Toyota Land Cruiser 13.0
Tampa-St Petersburg (Sarasota), FL Toyota Land Cruiser 11.1
Washington, DC (Hagerstown, MD) Toyota Land Cruiser 11.4
Similar to national data, the longest-kept new car across the most metro areas is the Toyota Land Cruiser, which earned the distinction in 17 of the 20 largest markets.

“If a vehicle is consistently kept longer than average, it suggests that it is reliable and that its owners enjoy driving it,” said Ly. “Whether you want a large hauler, a practical sedan, or a flashy sports car, there is a vehicle to suit your needs that will stand the test of time.”

Methodology

iSeeCars.com analyzed more than 5 million 5-year-old or older used cars sold by their original owners between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2018. Models which were owned for less than 5 years were excluded from the analysis, to eliminate the effect of short lease terms on the data. Models that were in production for less than 9 of the 10 most recent model years (2010 to 2019), heavy-duty trucks and vans, and models no longer in production as of the 2019 or 2020 model years were also removed from further analysis. The average age of each vehicle, defined as nameplate + bodystyle, was mathematically modeled using the ages of cars when they were first listed for sale. 

About iSeeCars.com

iSeeCars.com is a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best car deals by providing key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report. iSeeCars.com has saved users over $192 million so far by applying big data analytics powered by over 25 billion (and growing) data points and using proprietary algorithms to objectively analyze, score and rank millions of cars and thousands of dealers. Based in the Boston area, iSeeCars.com was founded by TripAdvisor and SAP veterans determined to improve the car shopping experience for consumers.